This blog is part of a mini-series of updates about the Battle Bus Research Volunteer Project. To keep up-to-date with all the latest programme activities, please visit the ‘Battle Bus’ section in London Transport Museum blog.
The Final Session
The research volunteers presented their findings to the rest of the group, before a well-deserved ‘Well done and thank you’ from the Battle Bus team. Volunteer Eithne Cullen rounds up the final session of the Battle Bus research project:
The last session brought together all the interesting research we’ve been doing over several weeks. The volume of information and the depth of people’s research were impressive. Everyone had loved using the T.O.T staff magazine to learn about transport workers’ experiences. Others have been to The National Archives at Kew in southwest London and the British Library in central London to extend their knowledge and understanding of the role of the B-type buses.
We took turns to sum up the research that we’d done. We looked at how the buses became involved in the First World War, going back to the months before war broke out, when Thomas Clarkson demonstrated the way his Chelmsford bus could move at speed. We learned about how the buses were requisitioned for war service and the varied work they were engaged in from carrying troops to acting as pigeon lofts.
Of course, recruiting the buses also meant signing up the drivers for active service and they travelled with their vehicles throughout the conflict.
The letters in the T.O.T staff magazine gave a great insight into the LGOC employees and their families during the war. We learned about the soldiers’ relationships with their buses; they called them ‘old tub’ and ‘old girl’ in their letters home. This personalisation highlighted how buses were a reminder of home and how their crews had real concern for their vehicles, even referring to them as ‘wounded’.
We were given a real insight into how buses played a part in the Balkans, moving troops from Salonika through the mountains in convoy. We learned about the importance of the buses in the war experiences of Commonwealth troops and the service of the 1.3 million Dominion soldiers. Back in London, buses also played an important part in how visiting soldiers experienced their leave in the city.
We also looked at the way LGOC workers were remembered. Remembrance is such a huge part of the First World War story. One B-type bus, ‘Ole Bill’, was nominated for preservation and was the only civilian vehicle to participate in the Armistice Day parade in 1920. It is currently on display in the Museum at Covent Garden. The T.O.T. magazine records the accounts of those whose names appeared on memorials in bus garages all over London after the war. Sadly, many memorials no longer survive.
The presentations gave a good overview of the journey we’ve been on, learning about these important vehicles and the contribution of transport workers to the war. We have had a great opportunity to look at the Battle Bus, 100 years on. Now, full of enthusiasm and filled with cake before we left, we’ve all parted for the time being and are now looking forward to the launch of the exhibition that will celebrate the ‘old tubs’….the ‘old girls’.